The genus Eurycea is made up of some twenty-seven salamander species. These are commonly referred to as stream or brook salamanders, due to the preferred habitats of some species. However, aside from streams these salamanders may also be found in forest seeps, terrestrial areas adjacent to springs and streams, the mouths of caves, and within caves themselves.
The genus is part of the Plethodontidae family (lungless salamanders). This is the largest family of salamanders with close to 400 different species. Ontario is home to several Plethondontids, but only one from the Eurycea genus. This is the Northern Two-Lined Salamander (Eurycea bislineata).
In Ontario, these salamanders are found sporadically throughout Southern Ontario.
These salamanders occur in streams under rocks, but also utilize the surrounding terrestrial areas as well, and can often be found under various cover (wooden debris, leaf litter, etc.). They can also sometimes be found on the forest floor far from running water.
They prey on a variety of insects and invertebrates. Some populations will also prey on trout fry. The salamanders themselves are often preyed on by both Eastern Garter Snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis) and Ringneck Snakes (Diadophis punctatus).
To avoid being predated Two-Lined Salamanders often autotomize (the spontaneous casting off of a limb or other body part) their tails. This greatly increases their chances of eluding predators. I have witnessed tailless Two-Lined Salamanders in the wild.
According to Ontario Nature, information about the abundance and distribution of northern two-lined salamanders in Ontario is generally lacking. The main threats facing Northern Two-Lined Salamander in Ontario is habitat loss, habitat alterations (alterations too the streams in which they reside), changes to the water table, and illegal capture for use as fishing bait.
Due to the Northern Two-Lined Salamanders and secretive nature, and lack of suitable habitat in this province make this species difficult to observe, however, I was very fortunate to record several new areas within the last few years where these secretive salamanders reside.
Although some of these salamanders were found under small rocks within the stream itself, most were encountered on the neighbouring terrestrial areas. Here they were found hiding in moist areas under various forms of cover – mostly rocks or wooden debris.
Due to their small size, veiled lifestyles, and often isolated habitats, the Northern Two-Lined Salamander is not an animal that most residents of Ontario will encounter. However, despite this these salamanders make for a fascinating and beautiful addition to the provinceʼs flora and fauna. Especially since they are the sole representative of their genus here.